Rebecca Pert – Q&A

Rebecca Pert

Rebecca Pert

She is the winner of the Cheltenham Literary Festival’s First Novel Award for her debut novel, STILL WATER, which will be published in the UK by HarperCollins’ Borough Press on 23rd June, and in Germany by HarperCollins’ Ecco Verlag on 25th October.

Her poetry and flash fiction has appeared in Mslexia, Reflex Fiction, Cactus Heart Magazine, and Catweazle Magazine. Her non-fiction writing has featured in The Guardian and the Journal of American, British and Canadian Studies. She holds an MA in the Teaching and Practice of Creative Writing from Cardiff University.

She lives in Gloucestershire with her husband Lewis, son Arthur, and dog Rosie.

Rebecca can be contacted at:
Website: https://rebeccapert.com/
Twitter: @Rebecca_Pert
Instagram: @rebecca_pert_author

Tell me what inspired you to write your (debut) novel?

Still Water

Still Water

My pregnancy. It was a (delightful) surprise. I tend not to have many surprises in my life – I’m a meticulous planner – so it really upended me. Suddenly my life was going in a different direction to the one I’d planned, and in order to feel in some sort of control of the situation, I began researching everything to do with pregnancy and childbirth – including everything that could possibly go wrong. I wanted to be prepared for every potential catastrophe. Stillbirth, a traumatic labour, postnatal health issues… it sounds morbid, but I think it was just my way of soothing my nerves and feeling prepared. Luckily, I had an easy pregnancy, a long but uncomplicated birth, and I absolutely loved being a mum right from the start (it helps that I had a healthy, easygoing, gorgeous baby). But all the dark things that I’d read up on during my pregnancy were sort of fermenting in the back of my mind, and I needed a place to put them. Still Water is a sort of narrative exorcism I guess.

What came first the characters or the world?

The world. My parents and three older siblings lived on the Shetland Islands in the late 1970s, on Unst, the most northerly island in the UK (my Dad was in the R.A.F. and was stationed there). By the time I was born, my Dad had left the forces and my family had moved to Devon. I grew up hearing stories about Unst, this wild, remote, rugged island, where they’d lived in a croft and had peat fires and saw the midnight sun, and it totally captured my imagination. I think I was always a bit jealous that my brothers and sister got to live there and I didn’t, so setting the book on Unst was my way of joining in!

How hard was it to get your first (debut) book published?

I had an unusually easy path to publication, in that I got my publishing contract by winning a competition – the Cheltenham Literature Festival’s First Novel Competition. To enter, I had to send off the first three chapters of my novel-in-progress. I still can’t quite believe that I won. The prize was an advance, a publishing contract with The Borough Press, and agency representation by LBA Books. So the whole package. It was a dream come true. I’m sickeningly lucky.

How long did it take to write?

A long time. Although I’d won the competition on the strength of the first three chapters and synopsis, the novel itself still needed a massive amount of work before it was ready to publish. I was trying to wade through structural edits with a newborn, and the sleep deprivation meant my brain just wasn’t functioning properly – the more I worked on the book, the more it seemed to fall apart in my hands. It was a mammoth task. In the end I submitted the completed manuscript in March 2020, over two-and-a-half years after I’d sent off those chapters to the competition! Then came line edits and copyedits… I’d say the novel itself took me about 3-4 years to write.

Do you have a writing playlist? If so do you want to share it?

I don’t, but I tend to listen to lots of nature sound playlists on Spotify to get me in the mood for scenes.

What kind of reactions have you had to your book?

So far, from the early reviewers who have received advance copies of the book, I’ve had great reactions. The thing I’m most proud of is that reviews have said that I’ve managed to tackle difficult subjects with sensitivity, which was my main aim. The last thing I wanted to do was exploit the subject of maternal mental illness for cheap thrills. Balancing serious subject matter with a storyline that was still gripping was difficult, and I’m glad people think I’ve managed it.

Do you take notice of online reviews?

I do. I know people say authors shouldn’t read their reviews, but I’ve got quite a thick skin with regards to my writing; it wouldn’t worry me if my book wasn’t someone’s cup of tea. I’m always looking to learn and improve, so if people have constructive criticism, I’m all ears. Also, if you didn’t read your reviews, you’d miss out on all the lovely things people say, which is a huge bolster against self-doubt and impostor syndrome!

Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?

I think it’s probably best to stick with what I know, although I quite fancy writing a horror screenplay at some point.

What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?

I work at the University of Bristol as an administrator – part-time, to fit around childcare. I’ve worked in lots of other jobs: rollercoaster operator, housekeeper, telemarketer, medical secretary… most of my working life has been spent in libraries, though. A great place to work if you’re a book-lover.

Which author(s) inspire you?

Jacqueline Wilson. Although she’s a children’s author her writing has probably had the biggest impact on me – truthful, direct, honest stories about difficult social issues. She’s a brilliant writer, and although her books rarely have ‘happy’ endings, they are always positive and redemptive in some way. Other writers include Margaret Atwood for her beautiful prose and characterisation, Stephen King for pace and plotting and writing about fear, and Eimear McBride for her stunning, impressionistic imagery.

Which genres do you read yourself?

Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Horror. Occasionally a classic or two.

What is your biggest motivator?

Other people imposing deadlines on me. I’m rubbish at self-motivation.

What will always distract you?

Social Media. I’m an addict.

Were you a big reader as a child?

Yes, massive. I spent most of my childhood with my nose stuck in a book.

What were your favourite childhood books?

Anything by Jacqueline Wilson, of course! I also loved the Hounds of the Morrigan by Pat O’Shea, Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

Rebecca Pert

Rebecca Pert

Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?

The Cotswold Book Room in Wotton-under-Edge. It’s run by the loveliest couple and you always get such a warm welcome. I’m having my launch party there on the 23rd June!

Do you have any rituals when writing?

Sadly not, although I like the idea of it.

How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?

Too many to count.

What is your current or latest read?

I’m alternating between Alison Moore’s The Pre-War House and Other Stories and Lucie McKnight Hardy’s Dead Relatives, both books of stunningly crafted and incredibly unsettling short stories. Both absolutely incredible writers.

What books that you’re looking forward to in the next 12 months?

I’m really looking forward to Sophie Jai’s Wild Fires, Joanna Cannon’s A Tidy Ending, Emma Szewczak’s The Stitch-Up, and Meera Shah’s debut novel, title as yet not revealed!

Any plans or projects in the near future you can tell us about?

There are, but I can’t tell anyone about them yet – watch this space!

Any events in the near future?

My book launch was on the 23rd June at the Cotswold Book Room! I’ll also be going to the Book Nook in Ware in the summer. Hopefully some other signings and appearances too – follow me on Twitter for details!


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Cally Taylor – Q&A

Cally Taylor

Cally Taylor

C.L. Taylor lives in Bristol with her partner and young son. She started writing fiction in 2005 and her short stories have won several awards and been published by a variety of literary and womens magazines. Cally works in Higher Education and has a degree in Psychology, with particular interest in abnormal and criminal Psychology. She also loves knitting, Dr Who, Sherlock, Great British Bake Off and Margaret Atwood and blames Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected for her love of a dark tale.

With the paperback Her Last Holiday just out in January of 2022 and a new book due in July (The Guilty Couple, the 11th as C.L. Taylor) there are so many good thrillers for you to choose from.

Here is Cally talking a bit about her books and her process.

Contact details for C.L. Taylor are:

www.cltaylorauthor.com
Twitter: @callytaylor
Insta: @CLTaylorAuthor
FB: @CallyTaylorAuthor
YouTube: CLTaylorAuthor

Do you have a writing playlist? If so do you want to share it?

I write to film soundtracks, but only ones that don’t have any lyrics. My favourites are ‘In Time’, ‘The Dark Knight’ and ‘Rambo Last Blood’. I write crime novels and I like the soundtrack I listen to to match the tension of my scene.

What kind of reactions have you had to your books?

I’ve written eight psychological thrillers so far and I’ve had the most wonderful reactions. My favourite is when a reader tells me they read one of my books in one sitting, or they read it late into the night, way past their bedtime.

What’s the favourite reaction you’ve had to your books?

A reader told me that he hadn’t been into reading until he read one of my books but it inspired him to read more, across lots of genres, then he give up his job as a bus driver and retrained to be an English teacher.

What can you tell us about your next book?

Her Last Holiday

Her Last Holiday

My current book is Her Last Holiday which is a missing sister mystery about a woman called Fran who signs up to attend a wellness retreat to try and find out what happened to her sister Jenna who disappeared on a similar retreat two years earlier.

The current thread (Fran’s point of view) is set in Wales and the past thread (Jenna’s point of view) is set in Gozo, an island off the coast of Malta. There are several people on Fran’s retreat who were also on Jenna’s and one of them is determined that she doesn’t discover the truth…

Do you take notice of online reviews?

For my sins, I do. I tend to look at the first tranche after a book is published to see what the reaction is like but I don’t obsessively check the reviews for my older books.

Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?

I’ve already written romantic comedies, psychological thrillers and young adult thrillers but I wouldn’t discount other genres!

What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?

I was the manager of a university distance learning team.

Which author(s) inspire you?

Maggie O’Farrell, Margaret Atwood, Lisa Jewell.

Which genres do you read yourself?

All sorts, but primarily crime as I’m sent lots of proofs.

What is your biggest motivator?

Writing a better book than the last one.

What will always distract you?

Social media.

How much (if any) say do you have in your book covers?

I didn’t have much of a say when I first started out but these days I’ll often get shown four to six different designs and asked for my thoughts. For Her Last Holiday I was shown four variations of a very similar design and asked which one I liked best. For The Guilty Couple I was shown one design and loved it on sight!

Where you a big reader as a child?

I was a voracious reader, an ‘under the duvet with a torch’ type child.

What were your favourite childhood books?

Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway series. The Garden Gang by Jayne Fisher. The Willard Price adventure series.

Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?

I love all bookshops because they have books in them! I love Waterstones for the huge variety of books, I love Max Minerva’s my local Bristol indie and I love a second hand bookshop for all the vintage treasures you can find.

What books can you not resist buying?

Books about psychology and neuroscience.

Do you have any rituals when writing?

When I start a new book I have to make sure that my study is tidy and my desk and my whiteboard are clear.

How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?

Too many to count!

What is your current or latest read?

I’ve just finished a proof of ‘The Last Party’, Clare Mackintosh’s new police-procedural series which I hugely enjoyed and have just picked up a proof of ‘I Know What I Saw’ by Imran Mahmood and am two chapters in. I am also listening to the audiobook of Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell.

Any books that you’re looking forward to in the next 12 months?

I’m looking forward to Lisa Jewell’s sequel to The Family Upstairs (The Family Remains) and I’m dying to dive into my proof copy of Rachel Again by Marian Keyes.

Any plans or projects in the near future you can tell us about?

My next book is published on 23rd June 2022 in hardback, ebook and audio. It’s called The Guilty Couple and it’s about a woman called Olivia who was framed by her husband. When she’s released from prison five years later Olivia teams up with her thief cellmate to clear her name and get revenge but it isn’t her freedom that’s at stake now, it’s her life.

I’m currently mulling over an idea for my tenth psychological thriller and will start plotting it next month.

Any events in the near future?

I’ll be appearing at Crime Fest in Bristol in May and Harrogate Crime Festival in July. Hopefully I’ll be doing a book tour for the launch of The Guilty Couple at the end of June. Details will be posted on my website when they’re confirmed.

And finally, what inspired you to write the genre you do?

I did my degree in psychology and I find the human mind fascinating: the way childhood shapes us into the adults we become, and the reasons some people become narcissists, sociopaths and criminals, and the survival mechanisms victims of crime employ.


If you want to help and support this blog you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

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Tilly and the Bookwanderers

Anna James. HarperCollins. (400p) ISBN 9780008229870

Tilly and the Book Wanderers

Tilly and the Book Wanderers

I’ve got to be absolutely honest and say I really wanted this book as it looked so nice, and it is a beautiful book with a stunning red finish.

Pure avarice aside though, this is a book lovers dream, the first couple of chapters were spent describing every booksellers dream bookshop, all higgledy with nooks to sit and read, with shelves stacked high of all our favourite books.

This description was topped with such wonderful descriptions of food that it made me hungry, especially the repeated marshmallow line.

The story follows the adventures of Tilly and her travels through the world of books, literally. This book magic is wonderfully described and another wish-fulfilment by someone who obviously loves books.

Supporting characters and baddies are well-fleshed out and never feel as though they are tacked on, Mr. Chalk is wonderful.

This is such a fresh adventure opening up a new world of magic to explore, and one we all wish we had the ability to do. So looking forward to the further adventures of Tilly and the Bookwanderers.

Even though I got a review copy of this I still had to get myself the wonderful hardback edition when it came out (well two actually, one for me and one for my niece).


If you want to help and support this blog you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

You can always email me on contact@bigbeardedbookseller.com with any suggestions.

Starfell: Willow Moss and the Lost Day

Dominique Valente. HarperCollins. (304p) ISBN 9780008308407

Starfell: Willow Moss and the Lost Day

Starfell: Willow Moss and the Lost Day

I’ve had Starfell: Willow Moss and the Lost Day on my TBR for a while, but have eventually got around to reading it, and have regretted the lost time.

Dominique Valente gives us a wonderful adventure where Willow Moss discovers that no matter what other people say or think of you you are capable of greatness.

Someone has stolen last Tuesday and this could lead to the universe unravelling, Willow can find things and is tasked by Moreg Vaine (the most feared witch in Starfell) in finding it.

Along the way Willow collects a ragtag band of magic users and magical creatures who become a group of close friends and help each other overcome the difficulties and threats that stand in the way of finding the lost day.

Fast-paced, exciting and funny this is a wonderful read and a wonderful start to a series, so looking forward to the next book.


If you want to help and support this blog you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

You can always email me on contact@bigbeardedbookseller.com with any suggestions.